When I was 9 or 10 years old, my neighbor had an old Ford Bronco with a bumper sticker that had been partially scratched out to remove a single three-letter word. It read:
"—- is like pizza. Even when it's bad, it's still good."
I didn't know much back then, but I learned a valuable philosophical lesson from that bumper sticker: Pizza is never bad, even when it comes from the freezer aisle at your local grocery store. Some people will dispute this and argue that, on the contrary, frozen pizza is never good. But they are wrong. Frozen pizza haters are overlooking some critical facts. Frozen pizza is cheap. It's also easy. But most of all, it's always still good.
You can go out and eat an "artisanal" wood-fired pizza and spend $40 and two hours in the company of strangers. Or, you can pay $6 for two Red Baron Supremes at your nearest Rosauers, pop one of those bad boys in the oven for 13 minutes and devour the entire thing while watching people catfish each other on Netflix's The Circle.
In late November, I read a series of articles and tweets about "visibly damp" Papa John's founder John Schnatter, who had claimed to have eaten as many as 40 pizzas in 30 days. It was an impressive feat that he was mocked for on social media, but impressive nonetheless. Schnatter was complaining that the pizzas from the slumping Papa John's pizza empire were no longer good. Also — to reiterate for emphasis — he ate 40 of them in 30 days.
I decided to channel my inner Schnatter and attempt to eat just as many frozen pizzas in the month of December in preparation for this article.
The truth is that I failed.
I ate a lot of frozen pizza — probably too much. But do you know how much frozen pizza is out there? There are dozens of brands and styles in any given grocery store, ranging from deep dish to gluten-free, four-cheese to margherita, thin crust to "Naturally Rising." Our society is awash in frozen pizza.
Among all that I ate, Red Baron's Supreme and Pepperoni "Classic Crust" pizzas still take the cake (pie?). Red Baron is simple. He doesn't go for gimmicks. You get a spicy pepperoni and sausage, a straightforward crust and a chewy cheese. And it all holds together nicely in a slice.
Without any real methodology, I (loosely) graded the following frozen pizzas on taste, price, structure and composition. Here's what I found...
Red Baron Pepperoni/Supreme, $4
These pizzas are staples in my own freezer for a reason. They aren't anything special. They don't come with fancy ingredients. Red Baron gives you a straightforward yet tasty crust, a chewy cheese, spicy pepperoni and sausage, and at an affordable price. It all holds together, too. I typically get these on sale at Rosauers, two for $6.
California Pizza Kitchen Four Cheese, $6
This pizza was packaged in approximately the same size box as all the others I ate, but it mysteriously shrank in size in the oven. It also had no distinguishable taste. Do not recommend.
This was a more adventurous option on my frozen pizza list. While most frozen vegetables tend to lose their flavor, this Italian import, which included eggplant, zucchini, peppers and mushrooms, was still rockin'. Though, it was a little soggy after the oven.
Freschetta Supreme, $6
Remember when Digiornio was good? Those days are long behind us, but Freschetta does a good job filling in. The crust of this pizza is thick and fluffy. (My box says it's "Naturally Rising," as opposed to "Unnaturally Rising," I suppose.) The ingredients might be more lively than the others, but the slices don't hold together well. Expect cheese slippage.
Caulipower Margherita Pizza, $8.50
I only eat gluten-free foods on a dare or when I'm literally on the verge of starvation, so this was a leap for me. But it was good! The toppings were a little bland, but the crunchy, thin, cauliflower crust was enjoyable and a little different.
Other pizzas on my list that I don't have time or space to dive into: Trader Joe's Bambino Pepperoni Pizza, Oprah's O! That's Good, Digiorno's pan pizzas, Bagel Bites, Tombstone, Whole Foods 365, Wild Mike's.
Just remember, even if it's bad, it's still good. ♦